If you’ve been on Instagram or the internet lately, you would have heard the discussion surrounding a sexual misconduct case involving two National University of Singapore (NUS) students—a female undergrad who is the victim, and a male undergrad known as Nicholas, the perpetrator.
NUS said yesterday it will convene a committee to review its disciplinary and support frameworks, after the female undergraduate, 23-year-old third-year NUS communications and new media undergraduate Monica Baey, accused it of not doing enough to punish a fellow student who had filmed her showering.
Monica said the Peeping Tom was made to write a letter of apology, undergo mandatory counselling, banned from entering Eusoff Hall and suspended from school for a semester.
The chemical engineering student was not charged and was instead given a 12-month conditional warning by the police.
“I want real consequences for perpetrators that commit such acts and I want to know that NUS will reprimand them seriously so other potential perpetrators know they will face punishment if they commit (such acts),” she wrote on her Instagram page. She also revealed the identity of the male student.
When asked about the incident, NUS’ dean of students, Associate Professor Peter Pang, told The Sunday Times that the university was sorry for Monica’s “distressing experience”, describing the matter as one of “extreme concern”.
He explained that when such offences are committed, the NUS Board of Discipline, which comprises student and faculty representatives, “will consider factors such as the severity of the offence, the need for justice for the victim, the rehabilitative needs of the student offender, the safety of the NUS community, and also the decisions and penalties imposed by the authorities”.
“We understand that the male student concerned received a 12-month conditional warning from the police,” the statement said.
Prof Pang also said the university had heard the concerns raised by students and the public for a safer and more supportive campus, and “recognises that advances in camera technology can be easily abused”.
The committee, which will have representation from the NUS Board of Trustees, will get views from various stakeholders and study the approaches taken by other international institutions in dealing with such incidents, he said.
“We expect to share the findings and follow up actions in the new academic year,” he added.
Monica, who is currently on an exchange programme in Taiwan, told The Sunday Times the incident took place at 1am on Nov 25 last year while she was staying over in the hall with a friend. Just after she had finished showering, she noticed an iPhone being held underneath the door.
She shouted and the person ran away, said Monica. A girl who was outside the shower stall saw the man running down a staircase.
Monica and the man were both former residents of the hall. She said she knew him personally, and he was the boyfriend of one of her friends, also a Eusoff Hall resident.
Monica notified campus security and the Junior Common Room Committee of Eusoff Hall, the residence’s student representative body. She also made a police report.
According to her Instagram post, the university also sent the police closed-circuit television footage showing a man entering the toilet that night, along with the video he took of Monica that was found in his phone.
She also posted a screenshot showing she received the man’s apology letter through NUS on Feb 21. While describing his actions as “vile and inappropriate”, the man, who signed off as Nicholas, claimed he was under the influence of alcohol when the incident took place.
Other NUS students have since taken to social media to comment on the incident, with some saying they had heard of similar cases that went unreported, and others claiming to be victims like Monica.
Laura Ng, 24, who graduated from NUS last year, told The Sunday Times she felt it was time the university took sterner action against those who commit such acts. “They aren’t being fair to the victims. The school appears to be taking the stance that they don’t care for the victims’ well-being and dignity, which is quite upsetting,” said Laura, who stayed at a residential college in NUS.
In one of her earlier posts, Monica highlighted how last year, a 26-year-old NUS student was sentenced to three strokes of the cane and nine months’ jail for molesting a classmate just two months after he was given a conditional warning for peeping at another student, a hall mate, in the shower.
Two days ago, Monica again took to Instagram, urging NUS to adopt a zero-tolerance policy towards any form of sexual misconduct. She also asked for more support and counselling for victims, as the damage could be “long lasting”.
From 2015 to 2018, NUS has seen 20 cases of insult or outrage of modesty on campus. In most cases, the perpetrators were made to write an apology letter and “issued an official reprimand”. In some cases, they are barred from on-campus housing and made to pay a fine. Only in a few cases were they suspended for one to two semester.
The figures were based on a compilation of previous cases posted online on NUSSU – NUS Students United Facebook page. According to one of the admin, the documents “were directly obtained from NUS’ own internal student portal. It requires a current NUS student id to login and the login must be done on campus. Please feel free to verify the authenticity of the documents with NUS’ Registrar’s Office.”
While Nicholas’ punishment seems aligned with the punishments meted out to other offenders in the past years, many questioned: is NUS letting them off too lightly?
On the NUSSU – NUS Students United Facebook page, many questioned why Monica blamed NUS for the lack of punishment instead of blaming the police for giving only a “conditional stern warning”.
Monica took it to Instagram to explain that her investigative officer had told her, “If you want real consequences or more action to be taken, go to NUS and push for more action”.
Mothership reported that her mother, Mary Baey, had taken it to Facebook to show support for her daughter.
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She wrote, “Monica is my daughter and when I first learned from her about this incident that happened at NUS campus, I was shocked. She informed me that she reported to NUS and the Police and we were all waiting for the outcome of this case.After 2 months of investigation, the police only gave a 12 month’s conditional warning which is completely ridiculous. What this means is, the police are giving him a slap on his hand and say don’t do it again within 12 months. How can we know this is not going to happen again and how can there be no serious consequences for such action?”
She claimed that in the CCTV footage, Nicholas was seen going from stall to stall, looking for someone to film, and questioned whether he really didn’t know what he was doing.
She added, “We, as parents, trust NUS to provide a safe and secure place for students to live and to protect them from such incidences. I was given to understand that this is not the first case, there has been many cases, some reported to NUS and some that went unreported. How can we place our trust in NUS, a National and International institution? This trust is now broken.”
Images: Monica Baey’s Instagram
Text: Ng Huiwen, Choo Yun Ting / The Straits Times / April 2019
Additional text: Hidayah Idris